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I had built a list of reasons that I'm winding down playing of poker. I mostly wrote them out for myself, and had planed to make proper entries and post them here. As you might guess, because my decision was more or less made that I'd wind down my poker efforts, I have been slow to roll out the posts that explore the reasons.

I've been listing the reasons in no particular order; the first I posted was regarding game selection concerns. The second is a bit more nuanced, and I'll begin explaining it by telling a brief story.

A long time ago, I was introduced to someone whom I'd been told was an avid poker player. I asked her what she liked about poker and her quick answer was: I love poker because I love money. I was taken aback. I then made my usual mistake when I'm well informed on a subject: rather than keeping my judgements appropriately to myself, I blurted out an analysis: You'll never be a good poker player if you love money that much.

Of course, this is a counter-intuitive assessment, but nonetheless correct. I first encountered this idea when reading Doyle Brunson, who has said in many fora: to be a successful poker player, you must have a complete disregard for money (or sometimes saying the value of money). Eventually I came to the realization that this was a big factor in my (albeit small-time) poker success as well.

The fact is, I never much cared about money. I have been extremely poor at times (well, “extremely” when consider in relation to my social class, upbringing, and education level — I make no assertions that at my poorest I'm always have it better than most people in the world; we don't actually live in a classless society). At times when I was “poor”, I (like anyone else would) noticed the lack of money to do basic things like rent an apartment without cockroaches, or to have enough money to afford real pasta sauce rather than buying tomato paste and adding water.

But once I had enough money that I could rent a relatively nice apartment, eat out when I wanted to, and own a nice computer (or, have my employers provide them, actually), there wasn't much left that I ever needed. I just never wanted things. I really always hated possessions. I'm known for hording junk because I hate throwing things away, but I found I was just as happy avoiding acquiring things.

When I started playing poker, it was mainly as a competitive effort with the side-effect of getting free pizza money while in college. When I started playing seriously in the early 2000's, it was as an escape of my “regular community” that I had temporarily become fed up with. But, it was never really about the money.

Money to me always seemed like a meaningless thing. In the late 1990s, while my friends ran off to cash in on the Dot.Com boom, I went back to graduate school to hide from what I saw as over-commercialization of the Internet that I loved. Now, I'm staunchly middle class, I've been lucky to get jobs that don't compromise my principles, and it probably will stay this way for the rest of my life. There's nothing I want in my life that a little more money can buy. I can imagine it would be nice to win so-called “life-changing money”, so that I wouldn't have to ask people to pay me to work on the social causes that I care about. (I'm one of these rare people who would do roughly the same job I do now even if I didn't need the money.) However, making money that doesn't instantly make me independently wealthy simply won't improve my life. I just don't have much interest in being a Ferengi.

I feel that I got into trouble when I started to think about poker as something I needed to do to make expenses. I did increase my expense footprint, and it will require some careful financial management to live without the $1,000/month I was pulling from poker. But I can surely figure out how to reduce my expenses enough to make things work.

But, that's somewhat beside the point. The point is that I didn't get into poker for the money. I did, however, get caught up in the poker boom (ironically, after I'd already explicitly avoided the Dot.Com boom). I'd started to like the fact that easy money was coming my way; I was becoming a little bit a Ferengi. But, that's not something I really wanted; I pretended I wanted it, in a way, to justify not giving up, and after a while I even believed that I wanted it. In other words, I convinced myself I wanted “easy money” to keep from throwing myself into something I valued more. I bought into the myth of EV, which assumes a person's time is only valuable to the extent to which that person produces wealth. I do believe in EV in the mathematical abstract. Yet, the quality of life EV, and the EV of world betterment, are both much more important in the equation than the pure financial EV. This belief is why I refused to take Economics in college; it's why I avoided going to work for a start-up. It's just not worth changing my core principles just to keep playing poker.

In the final analysis, I was using poker as a mechanism to avoid spending as much time in the world I really loved (the one to which my career is devoted), because I was a bit burned out, as many who devote their lives to social causes do. I'm not burned out anymore, and in such a situation, poker serves only as a financial EV calculation. Yet, as I told that avid poker player I once met: one can't possibly be good at poker anyway if it's only about the money. The people who do best at poker love the game — they want to be doing nothing else when they are playing poker. I stopped feeling that months and months ago. It just became about the money. But, no matter what my financial EV is, I can't really justify playing for only that, particularly when I know I'm not going to get financially independent from it.

Date: 2007-05-22 16:55 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Do you still have cash backed up in Cake? I kind of want to get some money in there but don't have Epassporte setup. I don't know if transferring money would help at all because you may have the same problems, but I would be willing to send you a check for Cake money too if possible. Probably not a very big amount though, maybe around $300.

I still need to play poker for the money. :)

Enjoy the game...

Date: 2008-06-11 16:40 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi everyone,

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Secondly - you don't even need to risk any real money to enjoy the game (you do, however, if you love money that much) (

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